PFB - Reader Thoughts: Have All Those Home Losses Just Been … a Fluke?

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Feb 17, 2018
We did take No. 1 here, which consisted of questions more than comments. Two other emails I got were more commentary, but I thought they would be fun to share with a few notes from yours truly.

Being the optimist, I have a best-case scenario for the balance of our football season. I take it from Underwood’s basketball season at OSU. Remember how terribly that Big 12 season started for Underwood? Defense was getting killed. If I recall, we were being WAY too over-aggressive in the passing lanes for our personnel and giving up layup after layup. Then, as rumor has it, an unknown and unheralded assistant coach named “Boynton” convinced Underwood to modify the defensive strategy to match our team’s strengths. We finished that Big 12 season on quite a run. This is all from memory, so you’d need to fact check me on this.

Correlation to today … our D is struggling to offenses that have adapted to our aggressive strategy. Boise State was perhaps not used to the size/strength that Big 12 teams bring to the table regularly and we had a field day with the aggressive play. But Iowa State and Texas Tech are certainly aware.

And they used the Boise State film to successfully strategize and execute against our aggression. So is this the point in the season where Knowles — recognizing the youth in our secondary and the quality of QB/receiver play in the Big 12 — makes a big adjustment and we suddenly look like a new team on the defensive side of the ball? Maybe use the bye week after a (please please) win over Kansas State to implement changes? -Dave K.

This is a good take. Maybe the correlation isn’t exact, but Gundy has insinuated multiple times in the last week that Oklahoma State is trying to do too much defensively. This makes sense, right? When I go into a new job I always try and do too much to impress my bosses, and that’s probably what Knowles is doing right now. The Boise State game only encouraged it, but OSU’s youth in the secondary hasn’t allowed for the consistency needed for it to continue in Big 12 play.

Great take, Dave!

This next email references the post I wrote about how OSU and OU aren’t much different at home than they are on the road. You can read that here. This was written before last week’s slate of Big 12 games.

OSU’s home-road situation was not atypical in last year’s Big 12. The overall record of the home teams in Big 12 games last year was 17-26. Why? No idea. Since 2014, Big 12 home teams are 91-91. During that time frame, OSU, OU, and Tech are all three games better on the road than at home.

My understanding on the current research into home field advantage is that, in general, HFA is bigger when (a) travel distance is greater, and (b) the venue is unfamiliar. For example, in the NFL, HFA is smaller in divisional games than in inter-conference games. And in the long run, the biggest HFAs in the NFL belong to Denver and Seattle, indicating that travel distance probably plays a role (so does altitude in Denver’s case, one assumes). I’m going from memory, but could probably dig up some cites if you’re interested.

So if you look at college football intra-divisional games, you shouldn’t expect to see much home field advantage in general. These teams are familiar with the venue and usually aren’t traveling great distances.

If you look at the last four years, in Power Five conference intra-divisional games, then you should be looking at an almost perfectly matched sample. Each team playing two home and two road games against every other team. Home winning percentage in those games: 52.6 percent. It’s something, but it’s not as big as commonly assumed.

I’m not saying OSU’s home performance has been good, or even normal, but it’s not actually all that uncommon. Maybe there’s something to it, but maybe there’s not. From a strictly statistical standpoint, “it’s a fluke” is a reasonable explanation. From 2014-17, seven Power Five teams had worse intra-divisional home-road winning percentage differentials than OSU did: Texas Tech, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, OU, Texas A&M, and Boston College. -Doug D.

Doug runs CFB Reference (among other sports reference sites), which is an amazing site that we use often, so he knows his stuff. This is pretty fascinating data, and while it’s hard to get the question of, Why does this team stink at home but is good on the road? out of my head, this helps.

To this point, here are the average point differentials in home Big 12 games and road Big 12 games since the start of 2015.

  • Road (15-2 record): +6.1
  • Home (11-8 record): +9.5

This doesn’t make much sense. OSU has, statistically speaking, been better at home than it has on the road over the last three years even if it doesn’t have the record to prove it.

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